BWW Review: ORDINARY DAYS at Blackfriars Theatre
Now playing on the Blackfriars Theatre stage is the slightly lesser-known 2008 musical Ordinary Days by Adam Gwon, a show about the colliding lives of four New Yorkers and the difficulties of finding yourself, opening up, and letting go.
Ordinary Days tells the parallel stories of Claire (Emily Putnam) and Jason (Colin D. Pazik), a young couple embarking on a new journey after moving in together; and Deb (Kit Prelewitz) and Warren (Hector Manuel), a neurotic grad student and struggling artist who meet after Deb drops her thesis notes on the street. As Warren helps Deb see beauty in the little things and let go of what's weighing her down (namely her thesis that she's pointedly dispassionate about), Jason struggles desperately to hold on to Claire as she becomes increasingly distant for unknown reasons (which are later revealed in her powerful song "I'll Be Here"). These characters help each other in their own ways to stop seeing the forest for the trees and observe the big picture.
The narrative architecture of Ordinary Days is pretty familiar; the "strangers collide and learn powerful life lessons from each other" framework has been used in theatre, television, film, and literature exhaustively. What's moving about this play, however, are the ways in which these strangers also collide with the chaos and seismic energy of New York City, the play's setting, which Resident Dramaturg Eric Evans smartly states in the show notes "acts as a fifth character in the show." Interestingly, Ordinary Days demonstrates that, as frenzied and nonstop as NYC is, it can also be terribly lonely and unforgiving. I found myself thinking several times how much better off all of these characters would be if they just MOVED.
Not only are these characters trying to find themselves and learn how to adapt to life's constantly-changing whims, they're trying to do so in a city that demands conformity, where its inhabitants must move at its exhausting and unrelenting pace. The character who confronts this energy most frequently and palpably is Deb, who always seems on the brink of mental collapse, and who-until she meets Warren-is unable to simultaneously cope with the loss of her dissertation notes, the cruelty of her academic advisor, and the breakneck speed of NYC. While all four cast members have great moments, this production really belongs to Kit Prelewitz, whose powerful singing voice (especially during "Calm") and comedic chops are matched only by her ability to ooze chaotic, sweaty anxiety. She is an absolute joy to watch.
Equally suited for their role is Hector Manuel, who brings the perfect amount of sunshine, positivity, and optimism to Warren, and whose jollity acts as a useful counterpoint to Deb's constant fretfulness. Even his clothes are bright and cheery! The show's most moving scene is its last, when Warren stands on a rooftop and releases his many bright-colored writings into the wind, creating the visual representation of letting go, the show's central theme. Kudos to director Lindsay Warren Baker for this powerful visual moment.
Ordinary Days is a charming and heartfelt little story that positions chaos against loneliness, and reminds the audience of the mighty power of simply letting go. Blackfriars Theatre has done a splendid job at bringing it to their stage.
Ordinary Days is playing until February 17th. For tickets and more information, click here.